SPRING LAKE — In readying themselves for the four-day Thanksgiving Weekend Bluegrass Festival at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, Dave and Linda Liskey decided to load as much firewood as Dave's pickup could hold before they left home.
They were glad they did. Temperatures plunged into the 40s Thanksgiving night and didn't rise much above 60 degrees Friday.
"I'm glad we brought as much we did," Linda Liskey said. "I'm sure it'll all be gone by Sunday."
Most people attending the festival didn't seem to mind the cold. On Friday, a couple of hundred fans, bundled up in heavy coats and jackets, sat in lawn chairs beneath the youth ranch's tin-roofed pavilion and listened to bands perform. At the concession stand, hot coffee was a big seller.
Seventy-five-year-old bluegrass legend Melvin Goins, who has spent more than six decades in the business, has played the Sertoma festival several times. He considers it one of his favorite venues.
"The fans are so wonderful," Goins said. "They treat you good and always make you feel at home."
The annual Thanksgiving weekend festival has been going on since the early 1980s. According to promoter Steve Dittman, it has become a holiday mainstay for a number of regulars who roll in early in the week in their recreational vehicles. On Thursday, a Thanksgiving potluck dinner was held, with the youth ranch staff providing about two dozen cooked turkeys.
"It's like a big family gathering with pretty much the same faces year after year," Dittman said. "After we eat, the instruments come out, and folks play music pretty much all night. It's a wonderful tradition."
Over the years, the festival has become a favorite of longtime bluegrass fan Bobby Burke, who said that the low-key nature of the event makes it a rare outing for him and his family.
"You can bring your kids and not have to worry about them," he said. "There's not too family things to do these days that's affordable."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.